DREADLOCKED ACOUSTIC guitarist Newton Faulkner started his music journey in a Green Day cover band but he soon found his own voice and his unique style of guitar playing.
The Surrey-born artist attempted drums, piano, and even a stint of acting before concentrating on stringed instruments. He spent two years at the Academy of Contemporary Music under the tutelage of Irish fingerstyle guitarist Eric Roche.
In 2006 he signed a publishing deal with Peermusic and was earmarked by The Independent on Sunday as ‘One to watch’. The following year he began fulfilling his massive potential when he released his debut album Hands Built by Robots.
The album reached No 1 in the British album charts and produced the hit singles ‘Dream Catch Me’, ‘Teardrop’, ‘I Need Something’, and ‘All I Got’. Faulkner also enjoyed chart success in the USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, and Ireland.
It is in the live arena though the Newton has really captured the imagination and he has been a big draw at Glastonbury, V Festival, and Isle of Wight in Britain; Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza in America; and Ireland’s Cois Farraige.
Faulkner is currently promoting his second album Rebuilt By Humans and plays a ‘Róisín Dubh presents...’ show at the Live Lounge in The Radisson Blu Hotel on Saturday February 27 at 8pm.
At the end of 2008 Newton was on the crest of a wave in terms of his music career. His debut had sold almost half a million copies, he was nominated in the Best British Male Solo Artist category at the Brits, and he counted Jimmy Page and Roger Daltry among his growing legion of fans.
However during a family holiday in France he slipped on ice and broke his wrist and it looked like his music career would be cut short.
“It was an incredibly stressful time for me,” he says. “My hand was in a cast for three and a half months and it stopped me playing for quite a bit of time. I had actually most of the music written for the new album but the time off allowed me to focus more on the lyrics.”
With his future livelihood in the balance Faulkner flew home to see a specialist and a special plate mended together his shattered bones. When the cast came off he had lost a lot of movement in his hand.
“The injury did impact upon the way I played for a while,” he tells me. “I definitely had to calm things down during my live shows because it hurt like f**k every time I tapped my hand off the body of the guitar for percussion.”
A huge part of Newton’s appeal is the fact that he uses every part of the guitar to create a sound and a vibe. He has injected new life into songs such as Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’, Dead Or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Round’, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ , and ‘No Limit’ by 2 Unlimited and made them his own.
“I actually thought I’d invented the idea of the body of the guitar as a percussion instrument and doing all these quirky covers,” he says. “Then a friend of mine gave me a CD of a guitar player called Mark Mancina and it was basically what I’d been working on but a million times better!”
When Faulkner first arrived on the scene in 2007 he was a shot in the arm to the acoustic music scene and was dubbed ‘the UK’s answer to Jack Johnson’.
“The Jack Johnson comparison was OK but I thought musically we were quite different,” Newton says. “Basically it was more to do with the vibe of our playing and fact that we’re both quite popular with the surfer crowd. When I did tours with Paolo Nutini and James Morrison in the early days I was sort of part of that camp too for a little while.
“I wasn’t really aware of what was going on musically when the first album came out, and I didn’t listen to the radio all that much. I never dedicated myself to any particular trends and so I was always a little bit on the outside of what was happening. I’ve always been interested in digging up strange and wonderful things so I suppose I was a bit of an anomaly in terms of the UK scene. I enjoyed being in that position though.”
Of the new breed of British acts it is with Pixie Lott Faulkner has most affinity. They are both alumni of the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.
“That was a very strange period in my life,” says Newton. “I went there when I was about 11 and got a guitar when I was 13, and once I got into music I couldn’t do anything else. I bumped into Pixie Lott recently and we had a good long chat about a maths teacher at the school. It brought back some memories.”
Newton Faulkner’s full name is in fact Sam Newton Battenberg Faulkner and it appears that he is distantly related to the late Lord Mountbatten and the Duke of Edinburgh.
“On my mother’s side there’s a story of a prince and a chambermaid having an affair,” he said. “I’d have to kill a lot of people to become the king though”
Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.